Rolfer, Dancer, Teacher

It’s been a little over 8 years since I graduated the Rolfing® basic training and slightly under 7 since I completed my licensure, got laid off, and made an abrupt transition into “full time” at about 2-3 clients a week at the time. Last year I completed my Advanced training and assisted a Unit 3 training for the first time and it’s had me thinking about how much has changed since I first stepped into a classroom in Boulder. I’ve reached the point where there’s no thought to calling myself a Rolfer anymore and even on the days that it just feels like work I still wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

I’ve had my first Rolfling (client who decided to become a Rolfer) and possibly a few more in the making so I’ve been thinking about some of the advice I can offer that I feel really helped me become the Rolfer I am today. It’s not a comprehensive list, but a number of salient points I’ve found useful along the way.

Worry Less About Fixing and More About Learning

It’s challenging to remember when someone is paying for your help but one of the things I wished I’d realized earlier is that it’s not incumbent on me to be everyone’s savior. In the course of my career I might seem like a total wizard to some people and a charlatan or waste of time to other people. In training it was easy to watch an instructor be magical and think that that was what I was supposed to produce in the next hour. And in hindsight what may have held me back in my first few years was the tendency to try and push harder when that sort of magic wasn’t happening.

Having recently assisted a training for the first time, I think that ideally Rolfing training would be something like a 4-year degree. But for a variety of factors it’s not reasonable to run things that way so what we get is a training that teaches enough enough to be dangerous then sets us up to spend our early years getting our “finishing school” from our clients and continuing education. Even being told “the 10-series is what you do for 5 years or until you know what you’re doing” is easy to lose sight of in that moment when you have hands on a new client who’s coming to you for help and your training didn’t tell you exactly what to do in that moment with that client’s particular issue.

Looking back, and in working with my first Rolfing mentee, I think one of the things that most served the Rolfer I have become at this point was learning to back off, stop trying to fix, and focus more on learning. Making my Rolfing practice into my Rolfing *Practice* as it were. When my job became not to fix in the moment but to be effective enough that people came back (when appropriate for them) that was when I think I started to really become more effective. Pacing things not only to the client’s rate of change but also to a level or touch where I could work but still listen an gain understanding of what was going on. So that has become my primary stock piece of advice to new Rolfers which I also found echoed to some level by my advice to first time dance students.

Your primary job for the first 5 years is not to fix people. It is to be effective enough that people want to come back so you can continue to learn from working with them.

Sweat the Small Talk

I started Rolfing training as an avowed introvert, quiet and shy. When I share with clients that this is where I started from, most having little to no trouble believing this (although that’s starting the change lately, *happy dance*). They are far more likely to have a hard time believing I’ve been a swing dancer for 15 years and taught, competed, and ran my own dance studio for a while. So when I say that I’ve found being chatty with clients is a valuable thing, it’s a pretty big statement from where I started.

I think the early stages of Rolfing training made it easy for me to get focused on the client’s body and issues therein. After all, as Dr. Rolf said, it is the part we work with because it’s what we can get our hands on. People tend to show up in my office because they have big issues that have been affecting their life for a while and it’s easy to hang up on those. But one of the things I’ve realized over time is that if I focus too much on the current issues it becomes hard to see why we’re doing all this work and where it is going for the client. Understanding my client’s strengths and resources and joys has proven every bit as important as their problems and it takes a certain level of trust and familiarity to share any of those.

Making small talk with clients (or bigger talk), chatting about their day, their likes, what they or their kids did this past weekend, etc. has been a major source of insight that I didn’t expect it to be. I find that the more levels I’m willing to work with my clients on the more effective I’ve been able to be. Since it’s impossible to really know a person from an intake form I find myself that I can learn and connect more with my clients in a conversational”rolling intake” way not unlike getting to know another human being in any other situation would. The more I’m willing to roam through subjects with clients, the more I get to see the bigger picture of who they are, how their issues and activities and woes and joys are influencing their lives, and very often in conversation I find words or ideas or other hooks to help empower them in their healing process (and I find plenty to help heal myself as well). Sometimes the conversation itself is an important part of the healing. And let’s be honest, it can be a weird thing to meet someone, get in your underwear, and have them work on you; carrying on a conversation like a normal person often seems to help with the process of normalizing the newness of Rolfing for a lot of clients.

When in Doubt, Ask the Client

Being unsure what to do seems to be a pretty common thread in my first few years and strikes me as likely to continue showing up pretty regularly in my practice for the rest of my life. In theory unless I’m working with another Rolfer, I’m the person in the room most likely to be the expert on Rolfing but that still often means not knowing. I’ve often seen situations where Rolfers seem to think they need to know what the client needs as a default. “How do I know when to do X?” is a common question I’ve heard in classes and I think it speaks to the uncertainty of working with bodies and human health. I’ve found that, for me, the simplest and most powerful solution is to own my uncertainty, say “I’m not sure” and then ask the client for input. After all, the client is the expert on being themselves and have been figuring out and meeting their own needs for a lot longer than I have, so why not use them as a resource?

I usually give the client an out by telling them”You’re paying me to figure it out” if they don’t have a clear preference or sense of which direction to go, but sharing ideas and asking for client input helps make the process collaborative and a team effort for the their health. It invites them into conversation with their body and offers them some practice with better defining their internal landscape. It makes my job a hell of a lot easier than trying to know everything all the time and it gives me more information for my own learning process. It’s humbling and humanizing to say “I don’t know” but I’ve found it’s almost always improved on my results and helped keep my ego from getting in the way of the work.

Get a Mentor

There is a lot to learn in this little niche therapy of ours, and fairly likely still a lot more than I’m aware of at 7/8 years in. My de facto mentors for the first few years were my first Rolfers, Bethany Ward and Larry Koliha. I knew going into my first 10-series that I was interested in being a Rolfer so Bethany gave me a behind-the-scenes view of her processes as we worked together and it was incredibly helpful and something I’ve carried in to working with potential Rolfers. Larry and Bethany are also faculty at the Rolf Institute which meant they were full of helpful thoughts on preparing for the training or reigning in my occasional oversteps in practicing (I got scolded for trying nosework on a friend before I had done any training).

It was a real boon to be able to have someone I could ask when I got stuck with a client or when a session had a detrimental result or even when I just felt like a client’s issue was out of my depth and it was better to refer them out to someone more experienced. At the same time, I had Larry’s advice that often the difficult clients are the ones you learn the most from as a guide to work on staying calm and continuing to hang with the moment when I was having trouble with a client or with my own body. And being able to take classes from Larry and Bethany and receive work from both of them over the years has been a great source of new-to-me ideas and feedback on if I’m getting the right idea or if I missed the point of something they were teaching.

And ultimately having mentors has also provided me a metric for realizing that I can be both different and awesome. One of the things I’ve noticed over time is that the people who excel in various fields often seem to do so in part by being deeply themselves in the process. Being able to compare notes with Bethany and Larry and the occasional shared client helped me realize that I didn’t have to always use their ideas to be effective and on occasion I saw something for a client that they didn’t and vice versa. Knowing and working with them gave me a model for success in this trade and over time also helped me realize that my success didn’t have to look the same way as their success.

Get a Colleague

I think perhaps even more important than finding a mentor is finding a peer with whom you can connect. Someone who you feel on an even playing field with and free to talk about your experiences, exchange work, challenge each other, be a shoulder to cry on, and grow in unison (if not always in the same direction or at the same rate). A good colleague provides a safe space to grow in a different way than a mentor and can also help be a great yardstick for our own progress.

One of the most valuable resources to me has been my first client-turned-Rolfer, Lisa Barr. While we started in sort of a mentor/mentee relationship at first, we transitioned pretty quickly to trying to be more like colleagues and equals and both of us feel we got far more benefit from that relationship in the long run. Lisa knows me far better than any other Rolfer because we make time to trade sessions, get coffee after the session, and spend time talking about life beyond the table. This close friendship not only means we have a strong supportive colleague but also gives us additional space to grow and often helps us connect the dots and do deeply transformative work with each other. I believe we are often able to evoke change with each other that more experienced practitioners couldn’t or didn’t because of the additional layers of trust and familiarity that we have built with each other.

Get a (Really Good) Therapist

I feel like I got very lucky with the therapist I started working with just after I finished Basic Training. I’d be dumped HARD during my Unit 3 and came home incredibly distraught and finally ended up working with the therapist who a doctor friend had been advising me to try for several years prior. Frank has been my go-to therapist through the growth of my career and someone I still see off and on as my life, body, etc. continue to shift and grow. Working with him has not only improved my life but it has made me a better Rolfer.

While I started from a place of being a pretty good listener, having a therapist to model on has provided so many small and large pieces towards presenting both a more compassionate and more open model of listening for my clients. My early few years working with Frank involved a lot of anger and his willingness to simply sit with it and advice to “get comfortable being uncomfortable” has, I think, made me a far more accessible therapist to my clients. I’ve learned how to sit and simply hear their stories and when appropriate share my own stories or my own thoughts as opposed to jumping to giving advice or trying to fix things for a client.

And in a more general way, I think it’s an important aspect of presenting balance in ourselves with our clients. As I keep my own personal self developing, I keep myself relatively sharp for helping others develop as well; plus having a close relationship with a therapist has been useful when I need to get a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist for a client.. And as a colleague recently said to me “I keep going to a therapist so that I don’t have to”.

You Get To Co-Create the Context

It took me a while to recognize it, but the average client coming into my office doesn’t seem to know what to expect from a Rolfing session. Rolfing can be hard to describe even if you’ve had it and it seems to almost defy the “elevator speech” level of communication. So even if they’ve been referred by another client, many new Rolfees seem to show up not knowing what the experience is going to look like.

While it’s easy to view this as a detriment, I have found this can be spun as a strength of the work as well. With minimal pre-conceived notions, it becomes possible to set the stage for our work in a different way than if someone is going for a spa massage or other therapeutic intervention more oriented to them simply receiving care. I have found this ability to re-contextualize our work together as something collaborative, exploratory, out-of-the-box, and holistic is of great benefit and helps go beyond just “fix my pain” to allow room for the sort of transformative work that drew me to Rolfing in the first place.

I aim to meet my clients on a person-to-person level first and foremost and to work as equals rather than play into certain professional roles and expectations. It works for me and it seems to work for the majority of my clients. I’ve seen other colleagues work it different ways that serve them where my strategy wouldn’t fit. But in essence, you get to set the tone of the relationship you want to create with your clients and the more you take advantage of that, the more your work starts to look like you which I generally seems to make the more powerful both for Rolfer and client.

It’s OK to do Free Work

At times, offering free work has been one of the best tools to create a learning environment for myself and to be effective with clients I might not otherwise have helped. Offering free work significantly cuts down the anxiety around producing results for money which helps me feel space to experiment and take risks I might have talked myself out of. Sometimes a client shows up with an issue so outside of my experience that I have no idea if I can help but I want to try and see both if I can help them and if I can learn something. For instance, when I had a lactation consultant start sending me infants with tongue tie issues I spent the first few months doing free work on babies. This allowed me to create training space for myself and the freedom to experiment helped me to play with tactics that were both new to me and seemingly outside of what other tongue tie workers were doing.

Offering free work has also been a great way to smooth things over with clients on the rare occasion where something goes wrong from a session. This happens occasionally when a client struggles with integrating a session or every once in a while when I make a mistake. I try to first do no harm, so when I feel I’ve done something that adversely affected a client, it helps me stay in integrity with my intentions to either return their money for that session or offer free work until they feel better. Some of this is self soothing but it also goes a long way towards restoring trust with clients and being clear that we are working for their betterment and it gives me a chance to get hands on them again and try to learn where things went sideways. The most memorable case of this working for both me and a client happened when I was working with a first time client and had one of her ribs pop out of alignment. She called me the next day saying she was in pain and would be unable to come back, so I offered to do free work until the issue resolved. I spent 6 weeks doing free sessions for her until it felt better but I learned a lot about ribs and haven’t had that happen since, plus she became one of my best clients for a number of years.

Be Careful With Discount Work

One of the things I’ve learned over time is it’s equally important that my clients are covering my needs as that I am covering theirs. At the base level this means that I need to get enough money and/or emotional return on my time and energy to make doing work sustainable. While offering discounted work is occasionally valuable as a marketing or accessibility tool it can also be fairly destructive to the sustainability and quality of my work and client relationships.

I’ve run Groupons twice in my earlier days and found that those kind of steep discounts invite a lot of clients only looking for more discounts. I’ve gotten a few wonderful folks out of each one, but not at a much higher rate than what was already coming through my door by referral. At the same time Groupon tended to bring in a higher than average level of people just there for cheap work and less engaged in the process in general. Additionally the ones who wanted to stick around but only if I kept offering them a discounted rate tended to be the ones frequently going on fun weekend outings worth several times the discount they were asking for. While I don’t fault anyone for trying to save money, it typically seemed like the issue with these cases was one more of priority than true need for a discount which ended up feeling to me like a de-valuing of my time and effort. Noticing this effect has also made me very mindful of making sure my providers feel fully valued when I go to other therapists/practitioners/artists/etc nowadays.

So my early years pricing advice has been to set a price that feels good, and maybe a little uncomfortably high in the sense that it gives you space to grow into. Start from the market price for Rolfing in your area and adjust up or down to find that sweet spot for yourself. I don’t think money is everything but it is the most easily quantifiable and I do believe it communicates something about how people value my time and effort. What I found running Groupons was that doing a lot of work at a steep discount tended to affect the quality of my work across the board. So at this point I’m very mindful of offering discounts and making sure that I take care of my needs in a sustainable fashion that keeps me doing great work for my clients and myself.

Start with 3s When Strategizing and Pitching Work

I started out doing a lot of one-off sessions at dance events so I didn’t get particularly tied to the Ten-Series sales pitch but over time I’ve learned that it’s not where I prefer to start with clients. And clients coming in for the first time tend to find the idea of committing to 10 sessions upfront for a therapy and a person they have never tried to be rather daunting.

3 sessions is a much more manageable amount to consider for trying something new and I find it is typically enough for most clients to decide if we are making forward progress towards their needs and goals. For the last few years I’ve told new clients to “give it 3 sessions and that should give you a good sense of whether or not we’re making forward progress and/or if we need to change directions.” After a year or two working with that number as a proving ground, I’ve found there’s better client engagement and return, more people helped, and I’ve gotten much better at honing in on my clients’ core needs. Plus I find it typically takes 3-5 sessions to really start establishing a trust and rapport that allows for deeper work so when clients stick around past that point we usually get to dive into even cooler territory. Or if a client and I aren’t making some progress in 3 sessions I’m much better informed by then to be able to suggest someone or something that might be more helpful to their needs.

Strategise/Be Opportunistic About Classes for Advanced Training

My practice is in Raleigh, North Carolina in the USA. In the time I’ve been in practice there have been just a handful of RISI credits offered within even a day’s driving distance. When I finally got around to planning for Advanced Training I found myself scrambling to get the required prerequisites done in time. I actually ended up finishing my prerequisites mid-Advanced by flying to LA for a class on my way down to Brazil for the second half of my Advanced Training.

So generally now I recommend to newer Rolfers that they keep an eye out for the workshops near them, try to spread out the CEUs you need to get through RISI for your Advanced Training. If you live in Boulder or Seattle or the like it’s probably not a particular issue. But if you live a couple hundred miles or more from the nearest place where RISI regularly offers classes then pay attention to when they come up and try to maybe take one class every year or two. This will help you be ahead of the Advanced Training game when it comes time to cash in those prerequisite classes.

Titration and Pacing

One of the first pieces of advice I got from Bethany when I did a mentored session with her was to slow down and find the first layer of resistance rather than diving straight to as deep as I could do. I started out with a “Get in there and FIX IT” mentality that, in hindsight, was partly driven by a desire to speed through my own discomfort with my client’s expectations of relief (ESPECIALLY in the cases where I got a client who’d been to a much more experienced Rolfer elsewhere). It took a number of years and a fair amount of confidence and self loving growth to reach a point where I could just hang out at a client’s pace of change and feel (for the most part) comfortable with the discomfort of “they’re not feeling better yet and I’m not sure if they will”. The more I became comfortable with not having to ‘fix’ a client and just helping them evoke change at a pace that worked for them the more effective my work became. And curiously enough, the less I rushed things, the more rapidly they seemed become available to shift.

Pacing for myself as a human and practitioner is important as well. When I first started, two of the local Rolfers were closing their offices and I expected to be flooded with clients. In hindsight I’m glad I ended up getting very few of their people coming to me because it gave me time for my body to adjust and strengthen with this work. It made for some tough financial years in the middle but I believe that taking 5 years to reach a relatively full practice helped me be a better kind of strong and stable for this work.

Learning to pace and spread out my learning has been of great help. The desire to know ALL THE THINGS is certainly there for me at times and occasionally it’s worth cramming a few classes together. But it’s worth remembering that sometimes our clients integrate the most when we take our hands off of them. And similarly, we as practitioners and people integrate similarly when we just settle in and do the work where we are and with what we have at that moment.

Go Beyond Fascia/Try Things/Make It Your Own

I didn’t plan it this way, but looking back at the last 4 or 5 years of Continuing Ed for myself, I did as much learning about tissues other than fascia, as I did taking more traditionally Rolfing/fascial work classes. Nerve work, scar tissue, visceral, and deeper cranial rhythms all helped me refine my touch, expand my range, and take my fascial work deeper as well. Plus watching the various instructors for these courses helped gain a broader idea of how many directions this work can go and how much you can personalize it to your own knowledge base, body type, and way of being.

I started to define Rolfing, at least for myself, as something more of a philosophy than a technique. Most of the experienced Rolfers I know seem to have borrowed pieces of other work that isn’t strictly from the original Rolfing tradition and most of them do work that is in some way distinctly reflective of who they are as a person. As I observed this, I began to think of Rolfing less as a tool and more of an organizing principle for how I arrange my toolbox and how I go about using those tools to help someone (ordering of interventions, seeing beyond the surface, etc.). Thus, to to me, Rolfing becomes not a specific product or service that I offer but rather a context for offering my best therapeutic self to help people, which is part of how my work began to reflect me as a person.

Get Some Work for Yourself

Simple enough but so easy to get away from the habit. Believe in your own product and get Rolfing (and any other work that calls you) not just when you need it but before you need it. Having gone through phases of both I can say I think my clients’ results are markedly better in the periods where I’m spending or even overspending on self care compared to the periods where I wasn’t getting any work for 6 months or so.

Make Room for the Work to Change You

When I started down the path of this work, I oriented to it strongly as “I want this so I can do good things for others” What I failed to predict in those early stages was how much the work would also become a tool for letting the world do for and change me. At nearly 10 years since my first Rolfing sessions, I’m suddenly encountering the idea from multiple sources that the spiritual/personal growth work that we do is not just for ourselves but for all of our relationships and our clients as well. And after spending most of my life orienting as a giver, I find myself learning some really powerful lessons about how much I’m capable of receiving as well.

When I started training as a Rolfer I was on antidepressants, living in a construction zone of a house , and unconvinced that I had much value in the world. I was rather painfully shy, afraid of judgement, and felt stuck going down some family paths that I didn’t even realize I was on. Last year one of my colleagues told me when she had first met me seven years ago she was sure I was going to be a pain in her ass because I was dreadfully unhappy and couldn’t see it for myself.

Yesterday the same colleague told me she’s looking forward to the day when her children reach the point of change that I’ve gotten to lately. I’ve also had comments from pretty much every Rolfer I’ve worked with long-term about how much my body and way of being have changed over time. I still have the rest of my life to grow but I’m significantly happier, healthier, and more fulfilled than I was before I entered this process.

As I changed, my work changed and grew. The more my energy and way of being improved, the better my clients’ results got. In a grand sense, I don’t think of this work as fixing or creating a change in someone, it’s helping them (and ourselves) remove or work through the roadblocks to being our best, happiest, lightest selves. The more we allow ourselves to soften into our hard spaces, the more we learn how to offer similar space to our clients, our friends, and ourselves. So regardless of where you start from, probably my biggest advice to new Rolfers is to be open to the work changing you, challenging you, and bringing you to places in yourself that you may not have been able to imagine when you walked into your Unit 1 training.

In 2002 I graduated from NC State University with a degree in Computer Science. By the time I graduated I was fairly sure that tech wasn’t exactly going to be a deep and abiding passion, but I had the story that I was supposed to go to college and supposed to get a job based on that. So, when I started in 1997, it had seemed like tech was going to keep being more and more important in almost every field and I figured it would work itself out in one way or another. Through this time I was working for various facilities departments at UNC-CH mostly doing mapping of their underground utilities.

Also in 2002 I went to my first swing dance. I’d taken a social dance class for PE credits somewhere in the prior year then broken my hand playing basketball in the spring. As I was waiting for it to heal up, a friend of mine who’d been involved in swing dance a few years earlier during the original revival days was talking about getting back into dance. Right after graduation we went out dancing a couple times then I took off to Australia to visit a friend studying abroad and she moved to Denver just as I got back. I happened to go out one more time on my own and ran into another friend at the dance who directed me to some places for further dance instruction. I started taking classes and within 6 months the then fairly shy and introvert me had the rather weird idea that I wanted to learn how to teach swing.

Early Dance Years and (Slight) Intro to Rolfing

swing_dance_ebc

Dancing back in the days of having hair

Jump forward a couple of years and I was learning to teach, dancing up a storm, and temporarily unemployed for a year. I also happened to be dating someone who messed up her shoulder in a car accident and after extensive difficulty with it, had finally been directed to a Rolfer which she described as “an hour of intense pain, but it worked” and was the only thing that really got her moving forward out of the injury. At the time I can recall she suggested it as a career path saying “you’re strong, you could hurt people, you should be a Rolfer!” I was a bit intrigued as I looked into it and was not feeling particularly motivated by the search for another tech job. However, I had only recently paid off my college loans and had no desire to go back into debt at the time so I set the idea aside.

By this point I was also traveling enough to discover dance beyond the confines of the Triangle where I started. I was particularly enamored with the teaching of Paul Overton and Sharon Ashe and realizing that there was a lot more possibility to the teaching of dance than any of the local instructors were offering. Even so, I was taking from everyone I could locally including a period of taking three classes from three different instructors in three different locations on one night. At the same time I was also watching what life looked like as a dance instructor and coming to understand that while I loved it, I had no desire to make it my primary source of income.

Paragon Years

I eventually found my way back into my first (and only) private sector tech job at a company called Paragon Application Systems working on ATM testing tools and financial transaction simulation. While it was satisfying to create products that our customers found useful, I didn’t feel any particular passion for the work. This was also the first tech job where I had a few coworkers who were really stoked about programming. They would go home and read about new coding ideas, wanted to implement whatever the latest coding methodology was, etc. Watching them I knew I felt similarly about dance but was clearly never going to feel that passionately about programming. As I considered what another 30 years in programming might look like for me I decided I’d better find a different career if I wanted to have that sort of passion.

Around this time I was partnering with another dancer who was going through massage school. It seems to be common for massage schools to briefly mention the existence of Rolfing and when she mentioned something about wanting to try Rolfing, it re-sparked my inquiry into it. I wasn’t experiencing any particular pains, but my 8-10 hour-a-day computer posture was something I knew was holding me back in competition dancing and dance instructors just telling me to “stand up straight” for years hadn’t done much to alleviate it. So I looked around, found Bethany Ward who was the only local Rolfer with a reasonably informative website at the time plus she offered Saturday appointments, making the half hour drive or so to her office much more accessible for me.

First Session and Series

I’ve talked to Bethany about this recently and she doesn’t remember how our first session went so I’m reporting this from admittedly probably a bit biased recollection. I don’t honestly recall the session as a whole but I remember three salient points.

  1. My own thought of “What do you mean my ribs are supposed to move? Nobody told me ribs are supposed to do that” (now I recognize that it’s a pretty common idea in physical modalities but at the time it was very clear that this was a whole deeper level of understanding the body than any dance teacher I had yet encountered).
  2. Heavily-introverted-at-the-time me rambling on for pretty much the entire session. I really remember just feeling totally unable to shut up.
  3. Walking out with a clear sense of YES, THIS! I WANT IT. and almost immediately asking Bethany when we could find some time to meet and talk about what it looks like to train to do this work.

The rest of the session is sort of lost to my memory but it was great having it established early on that I planned to go to the Rolf Institute. As we went through my series Bethany kept me in the loop in a behind-the-scenes sort of way that gave me insight to build on in training. And as we worked and I talked to friends about my plans to become a Rolfer, people started willingly letting me put hands on them and experiment, trying to replicate some of the stuff I felt Bethany doing on me.

ten-series-before-after

Before & After photos from my first Ten-Series

Support and Hurdles for Getting to Boulder

In my life there had been a few projects that just seemed like foregone conclusions from the time I started them: getting my Eagle Scout, becoming a dance teacher, and then becoming a Rolfer. It was one of those pursuits that, in hindsight, I basically powered through hurdles without thinking about it where I have let challenges stop me in pursuits less important to me.

The first hurdle was getting my work to give me leave to take 2 month sabbaticals to go train. I had a meeting with my boss and simply told him I didn’t think I wanted to be a programmer for the rest of my life and here was this Rolfing thing that I wanted to do, here’s how the training looks, and could we make it work for me to keep my job through the training. Very fortunately for me they liked my work enough that they wanted to keep me around and we made arrangements for me to take two months off at a time then come back to work for 6-8 months in between trainings.

Knowing that work would support it, my next challenge was family support. My mom was supportive but my parents had apparently had a friend years ago who’d become a Rolfer and was fairly un-grounded so my dad seemed convinced I was just going to turn into a crystal-toting hippie. In past I think I’d almost always tended to hide it or fight back when my dad disagreed with something that stoked my fire. This time I simply accepted his concern without much comment and proceeded along with my plans to go. When I came back a month or two later with my registration for Unit 1 in Boulder, he seemed a bit surprised then fell into being more accepting of my plans.

The final big hurdle came during my drive out to Unit 1. I took a solo trip from Raleigh, NC to Boulder, CO and somewhere in the middle of Missouri the fuel pump in my Saturn started to die. The car managed to limp to the next big town where I found a Saturn dealership and lost a day’s worth of driving time and all of my discretionary fund for the trip. The Saturn guys went out of their way (including driving halfway to St. Louis for a part) to get me back on the road. I arrived in Boulder a day late(r than planned) and a number of dollars short with barely enough time to land and get my head on straight for the first day of class.

Boulder, Colorado Unit 1

Unit 1 is the section of the Rolfing training that gets you started and focuses on anatomy and touch skills. I rented a basement room from a Rolfer about 2 miles from the Institute and the class was taught by Michael Polon and Suzanne Picard with Sterling Cassel assisting. A few of the salient points from my Unit 1:

  1. On the first day that we started getting into anatomy we ended up modeling scapulae (shoulder blades) out of clay. As I worked to get the acromion process right I had the thought “I’m definitely in the right place.” And all throughout my training past and continuing I’ve been impressed with the multi-dimensional approach to teaching at the Rolf Institute.
  2. I went through a rough breakup at the beginning of the second week with a woman I’d been dating for 2 years at that point. It was a long time coming but at the time it really hurt and after a day of trying to stifle it I ended up breaking down crying in front of the whole class, sharing what had happened. Hugs ensued and the whole class got me a card the next day: one of many lessons to follow in the power of vulnerability.
  3. About halfway through the training I was trading a session with one of my closer classmates. We were following an area in her lower ribs that felt “dark” to her and after 10-15 minutes of working into it she started sobbing and went through a big emotional release for another 10-20 minutes. In the aftermath of this experience I realized that in a sense I hadn’t actively done anything to make it happen and it had only taken patience and presence to co-create the space with her for her to have that experience.
  4. Jonesing for barbecue one day and taking Michael’s suggestion that my classmate, Allie, and I head down to Daddy Bruce’s BBQ where we got mammoth ribs slathered in sauce and a generic sandwich cookie for dessert. The place has since closed, but the memory retains a special place in my heart for that moment of comfort.
  5. Towards the end of class I felt like I was having an easy time with the anatomy and touch skills and was looking to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. I asked Michael what I should be working on personally/spiritually to round out my skills. His response was “figure out what’s holding you back from giving yourself fully to the world” and recommended a book to me: The Way Of The Superior Man that ended up shaping a lot of my exploration into healing my relationship with masculine energy and my own masculinity over the next few years. In some ways I’ve moved deeper than the concepts in the book since then but it was a huge turning point for me at the time.

I finished Unit 1 with a certificate in Skillful Touch, a wording that earned me plenty of juvenile comments (not that I have anything against good innuendo, it was just pretty consistent).

Boulder, Colorado Unit 2

Unit 2 in the Rolfing basic training took me deeper into anatomy and touch skills and is where we first learn and practice the Ten-Series on each other. At this point I’d already been sort of practicing it with a few friends based on what I remembered from my work with Bethany, but this was where I really started to get it. Thomas Walker lead the class with Kima Kramer assisting. A full 2 months in Colorado staying with a local dancer and her husband in Longmont stuck some of these memories in my mind:

  1. I started to feel a little bit more at home with some of the dancers in Boulder and Denver. I was going out more regularly, starting to try a few things and getting out to dinner and such more often new and existing dance friends. This is where I started feeling like Colorado was (and still is) my second home dance scene.
  2. Thomas’ influence played a strong part in the development of my Rolfing touch having more listening in it and learning to be effective on the lighter pressure side of the spectrum. It helped further enhance ideas about how Rolfing doesn’t have to hurt and how to be effective in the moments when it doesn’t.
  3. I found two things that to this day remain some of my favorite breakfasts when I’m in Boulder; Santiago’s breakfast burritos and pretty much anything from Lucile’s Creole Cafe which became a haven when I wanted grits.
  4. In Unit 2 we learn the Ten-Series by practicing it on each other. I had been warned by Bethany to make sure I had good work lined up after I got back because getting learning sessions several times a week can really mess things up. I felt very lucky to have my closest friend from Unit 1 as my practitioner and a male classmate who I jived with as my practice client. My practitioner however had conflict with her practitioner so on the days she worked on me after receiving her session I had to be pretty on my game about minding my own boundaries and at times taking care of her while I was on the table. Overall though I had great sessions and came out of Unit 2 feeling built up rather than broken down.
  5. I have a strong recollection of my 7th session with my client. 7th session involves the mouth and nose work which he had an emotional charge around but hadn’t mentioned to me. The session went totally fine but when he got off the table it was fully soaked in sweat. It was a good lesson about how I might miss a client’s reaction or how they might hide something to make a session go the way they thing it is supposed to.
  6. Work on opening my chest has been a mainstay of my personal Rolfing journey. One day Thomas was doing a demo session with me standing in front of the whole class and working on opening some of my ribs using hands-on pressure and my own movement. At some point he asked me to see if I could let the corners of my mouth float towards the ceiling. As my mouth crested towards a smile I felt a major draw back in and had to say “I’m not ready to go there yet.” This became one of the early realizations that feeling happy was one of the most vulnerable and scary things I could feel. It also started to shape my idea of allowing the work to pace to the client and not always trying to force things open.

I ended Unit 2 feeling good, happy to be flying home rather than driving, and both excited and nervous about my developing plans to take my Unit 3 training in Brazil instead of returning to Boulder.

Barra do Sahy, Brasil Unit 3

When I had been in my Unit 2 trying to decide who to do my Unit 3 training with, an email had gone out notifying us of a Unit 3 training in Brazil. The Brazil course had a combined Rolf Movement Certification with the Unit 3 completion and would be taught by Monica Caspari for Movement and Jan Sultan for the hands-on with Raquel Motta assisting. As far as I could tell from asking around this was like a dream team of instruction so despite not knowing the language or anyone who’d be there, I signed up and booked a room in a beach house to stay at in Barra do Sahy, São Paulo, Brasil. Along with the Movement Certification, Unit 3 involves further deepening our anatomy and therapeutic skills and taking two practice clients through a Ten-Series with instructor supervision. If the view alone isn’t enough to explain why I decided to go, here are a few other highlights of what I got out of that training:

brazil_hammock

And people ask me why I’d choose to go to Brazil…

  1. There were several weeks of exploration and embodiment work with the movement training; challenging the ways we moved and exploring ways to move with more ease and less effort. Monica was an incredible teacher and more than anything else what has etched itself on my soul was her statement that “The primary cause of physical dysfunction is social inhibition.” I take this statement with a grain of salt but ever since in my dancing, my teaching, my work, and my self explorations that idea has informed my work, helping me make sense of motions, pains, and challenges that pure biomechanics couldn’t fully explain.
  2. I got dumped again (by a different woman) somewhere around the second week into training. This was probably the most challenging breakup of my life as I was thousands of miles away from any familiar support network. In hindsight I dodged a bullet with her, but at the time it added a really rough component to contemplate throughout the training.
  3. The beach house which several of us stayed in had a wood-fired sauna that became a focal point for the nights when we needed to decompress. Multiple nights 5 or 6 of us would pile in, watch the bay through the window in the sauna overlooking it and talk through whatever was going on with us through the training or life in general.
  4. Jan became my primary influence from basic training for the power and value of the heavier side of the Rolfing touch spectrum. Between Jan’s teaching and Thomas in Unit 2, I feel I got a good sense of the ends of the spectrum and a foundation for finding a lot of shades in the middle. I don’t think Jan typically used or encouraged us to use any more force than necessary to achieve results but he also had no problem digging in. I have an image of him at one time coming up to observe me working on a client, assessed what was going on and the result we were after and simply said “You’re just gonna have to hurt her.” I also watched a few of my classmates who were really reticent to work in uncomfortable levels with their clients and in my perception it seemed like it sometimes prevented them from creating the healing that their clients needed.
  5. Watching Jan working was amazing and inspiring. It both gave me an idea of what might be possible at at the same time was so distant from what I was able to do at the time that I started to realize there was no way at one year I’d be able to do it like Jan was doing it with his 40+ years. Instead of being disheartening, it actually became an idea that helped me relax, be at peace with where I was as a practitioner and do the best work I was capable of in that moment without so much judging it against the work of those far more experienced than me. This ease seemed to make my work better and my learning faster as I was able to be more present to where I was rather than worrying about where I thought I should be.
  6. My Ten-Series clients were a 60-something Brazillian aesthetician who I didn’t have much language in common with and an ex-pat American who I was grateful to be able to conduct sessions in English with. We relatively quickly fell into a routine of lectures in the morning followed by a two hour lunch break where I’d typically eat then go swim in the ocean for 45 minutes or so, come back, work with a client, then finish the day with lectures. My clients progressed well and I had the absolute best tan of my life.
  7. We were in Brazil over Thanksgiving so one of our ex-American clients who owned a restaurant bought a turkey and invited all the class and all of our practice clients to Thanksgiving dinner.
  8. After the end of her series, my ex-American client invited me over for dinner at her house. It’s the sort of thing that might have been frowned upon in Boulder but in Brazil it was no big deal. It turned into one of the most formative experiences of the trip as my client and I talked about and shared our experiences through the series and in both our lives in general. Of particular influence to me was the fact that she called me out on a few of my less composed moments in class and helped me realize that my clients could see my issues as much as I saw theirs. It’s taken a number of years to really pull it all together, but it has made a huge difference overall in how I work with and relate to my clients now.

I don’t know what to say about Brazil other than I think it has made worlds of difference in who I became as a person and a practitioner and I am forever grateful for having had the opportunity and courage to go there. While I don’t think it’s for everyone, I pretty much recommend every Rolfing student consider it as an option. That said, I was also grateful to return home and be able to not have to worry about sharing a common language when I wanted to go buy a burger or soap or just say more than “Oi. Tudo bem?” to someone on the street.

Lucking Into The Center

thecenterlogoThe final stage of the “becoming a Rolfer” process for me landed in finding an office and building a practice to the point where saying “I’m a Rolfer” felt natural rather than new and weird. I landed at The Center through a curious series of events. As I was settling into the idea of being an alternative health practitioner, I figured it would be worthwhile to familiarize myself with some of the other practitioners locally. I was curious to try out acupuncture and got a referral to Quinn Takei as a great acupuncturist. I went and did a few sessions with Quinn and was impressed with his office and professionalism. On my last session of the series with him I noticed one of the massage therapists packing up her office to move out. I asked if he would be interested in having a Rolfer in the office and the rest is kind of history.

About a month after I had gotten a lease at The Center I was laid off from my programming job at Paragon. It was a year or two in the banking crisis and they were having to make cutbacks. So instead of the slow easing into Rolfing that I had intended, I got a bit shoved into full time. It took a few years and a few withdrawals from my retirement savings to really get settled in here, but I haven’t looked back. And while I can’t exactly recommend the way I got here, I’m dreadfully grateful to have found work that feeds my soul and lets me do something that I feel is of value to the world.

The final week is done of my first Rolfing® training assist. It ended up being a big push to the end getting in as much as I outside of class while mostly wrapping up in the classroom. We wrapped up a day ago and I’m finding myself deeply grateful for the experience having learned a lot and set up a decent base for assisting again (in fact I’ve already got one loose offer to assist another instructor sometime in future). I’m also very grateful to friends, old and new, in the swing scene here who’ve helped me feel at home, and kept my nights busy with delicious food and equally delicious dancing.

Day 43 – September 26

uc516_day_43_kakes_dawn_tributeMonday came on fairly bright and early. The legendary Dawn Hampton had passed the night before and I was on and off Facebook through the morning checking out the tributes, stories, and videos of this incredible human.

In class we spent the morning reflecting on our 10 series clients and what sort of results we had gotten with them. Watching the reflective process for the students was great particularly since I see the 10-series as being a strong self-teaching tool for Rolfers early on and throughout our careers. Session 9 with the 13-series clients followed with a little bit of a bittersweet feel moving towards the end of closure.

After class I caught a ride from Neal over to Heather Starsong‘s studio where I got a personal movement session. We worked a lot on spinal mechanics and getting my axial diaphgramatic structures relaxing and working together. It was a beautiful session and is probably going to be processing for a few months to come but I then got to have a 2 mile walk down to Kakes Studios for the Boulder Swing dance as a way to integrate. Had some great dances again with a nice tribute to Dawn then a couple of friends invited me over for Sazeracs and some chat time before taking me home probably later than was best for me to be out.

Day 44 – September 27

UC516_Day_44_Dancing_at_Baurs.jpgTuesday came on bright and early with a trip down to Snooze for breakfast then more 10-series presentations and my second demo session with my post-10 client. The afternoon rolled into mostly students trading sessions with each other which provided a nice break from holding space for outside clients and generally feels like we got a more relaxed energy and got to see the students interacting a bit more openly as practitioners.

Dancing this night took the form of a drive (or being driven) down to Denver for Joe Smith and the Spicy Pickles at a restaurant called Baur’s. The band was really damn good and it makes me wish we had the sort of infrastructure in Raleigh/Durham to support larger bands having weekly gigs like this. I got to meet and dance with a few new dancers I hadn’t run into yet and we headed home tired but satisfied.

Day 45 – September 28

uc516_day_45_skeye_brewingWednesday night saw me up early for the last session of my 3-series trading with Neal. The session with Heather had given me a few ideas of spots to work on and Neal incorporated that info nicely into a nice wrap-up session for our work together.

We spent the morning in class trading tips and tricks that we’d picked up along the way and watching Neal’s final session 10 demo. The student’s 10th sessions in the afternoon were again sort of bittersweet thought mostly sweet as the students closed out with these clients. I’m not sure if it was because they’d done movement as well or because it was closer to close or just luck of the draw but this round of closure felt more open and warm with gifts and cards exchanged and the like.

After class, Neal gave me a ride up to Skeye Brewing on his way home and stopped off to grab a beer with me before heading on. When we arrived, the beginner lesson for the dance that night was still going on and we got to talk a little bit of my philosophy for teaching dance. The crowd for the dance was on the smaller side but also nicely intimate and a lot of good dances (and a few brews) were had. I caught a ride home with one of the local teachers and had a really nice conversation about dance pedagogy before being dropped off at home and promptly crashing.

Day 46 – September 29

uc516_day_46_waterloo_group_photoBy this point in the week it was beginning to feel like a rather intense, though worthwhile, haul through a lack of sleep. It wasn’t really intentional, just between the work with Heather and Neal I think we’d reached a sort of critical mass where some of the body shifts were interrupting my sleep for a bit.

Undeterred though we kept rolling on with class which was all about the final post-10 sessions today. My final session with my post-10 client came together really well and kind of made me wish I were closer. She asked if I had a card and I had to confess that I lived half a country away but would do my best to help put her in touch with someone who might be useful to her locally. Following class about half of us went over to Asher Brewing for a couple of beers and some conversation. Several of the students have family or significant others coming into town at this point so we got to talk a bit more about those folks and life beyond the classroom.

And reprising the start of my dancing during this course, some of the local decided to take another trip to Waterloo in Louisville for some Balboa dancing. The picture above is missing a good number of the new and old dance friends I’ve made here but I think it tells the spirit of this group well and I’m deeply grateful for the welcoming arms of the swing scene here.

Day 47 – September 30

uc516_day_47_class_photoGraduation Day!

This was another early morning for myself and Neal as we had individual student evaluation interviews to do. Everyone passed with plenty of room and we got to talk with each student about their strengths, their challenges, and what we might recommend they pursue next in their development. Energies were higher overall than they had been in a while which I think is a testament to how much work goes into training as a Rolfer and how much of a relief it is to cross the finish line. The closing ceremony and graduation went great and then I crashed hard and just went to lie down on the floor a bit.

Following a reception at RISI, the class and families went out to Element Bistro for a drink. Neal and I hung around for an hour or so then headed to J&L Distilling for a final drink and debrief ourselves. When I had first booked my flights, Neal and I had planned this time thinking we’d need lots of time to talk out what had happened in the class but because we’d kept open lines of communication and feedback the whole time there really wasn’t much left unsaid and we spent the time instead talking about my heading to Boston and Neal’s upcoming trip to Peru.

Final night’s dancing in Colorado came courtesy of a gypsy jazz band called La Pompe playing at Brik on York which was a fancy pizza place in downtown Denver. A local dancer gave me a ride down and instead of pizza I ended up ordering a charcuterie plate that took most of the night to finish off. Had some great dances, especially in the second set when patrons started clearing out and we were able to move some tables and dance at the foot of the stage. One thing I’ve been noting a lot lately is how much of a difference it can make to dance with an audience around. At a standard swing dance everyone is kind of just doing their own thing, but at a restaurant or bar, dancing kind of makes us part of the entertainment and it’s been interesting to note how much that adds to the experience for me and kind of eggs on experimentation and play.

I got back home around midnight and tried to get to sleep fairly quickly for my flight the next morning.

Day 48 – October 1

uc516_day_48_denver_airportThe last day in Boulder dawned a bit earlier than I would have liked, but with a 1pm flight to catch, an hour+ bus ride to get there, and the unpredictability of the lines at DEN, I decided it would be best to be up at out early. I had hoped to take my host to Snooze and to get myself a flight of fancy pancakes (still a brilliant idea) but by the time we arrived at 8:30 the wait was nearly an hour and would have been pushing it on my comfort zone with the time.

So instead I just hopped the bus to DEN, barely made weight on my bags stuffed with goodies from Colorado breweries and distilleries, and settled in to wing my way to Boston for Tinkerbal and seeing some dance and Rolfing friends I haven’t seen in quite some time. Today’s photo is from a little space in DEN above the trains in Terminal C that I’d just never noticed before, keeping a bit with this whole trip’s theme of noticing details and continuing to learn.

I landed in Boston around 9pm, caught an Uber to the dance that night and surprised the hell out of a few old and dear dance friends by being there. It was a lovely reception back and I wish I had gotten photos of the silly lobster dance contest, but I decided to just enjoy it rather than being a shutterbug. Staying the night with an old dance student of mine who lives near the venues and I slept in on Sunday longer than I have in a while.

Conclusion

It was a really wild ride getting to this point, having just completed my Advanced Training and getting asked to assist, working out how to make it fit with my current homeless state, and getting better insight both into how much I do actually know and how much there still is to learn in this work. I’m grateful to Neal for taking a chance with me and to all the students for their patience with both of our learning curves and for their presence and energy in class. And probably most importantly, a huge congratulations to AJ, Chris, Drew, Haley, Katie, Kyle, Monica, and Tiffani on making it all the way to being Certified Rolfers!!!

Week 6 down. Almost done with my assisting a Unit 3 Rolfing® training for the first time. Getting deeper into closure territory, final touches, parties, and getting in as much hiking and dancing as I can. It’s also the final week I have a car rented meaning I’m enjoying that freedom as much as I can before I go back to hoofing it, busing it, or bumming a ride for the final week.

Day 36 – September 19

uc516_day_36_movement_3Monday came bright and early with a promise of the final movement session for the 13 series clients. This puts us firmly into the territory where both clients are past the core sessions and moving into integration and closure. As a big proponent of movement it’s been nice watching the students shift from sort of loose understanding of how to build a movement session to a much more confident assessment and directing of the sessions with their clients. This was also Ray McCall’s last day in class assessing Neal who passed the test just fine.

I went for my own movement at the end of the day with a trip to Kakes Studios for dancing. Definitely a more tired day than it has been at times, but good to be out all the same and a little bittersweet knowing I’ve only got a few weeks left to get out dancing and connecting with the Boulder Swing folks.

 

Day 37 – September 20

uc516_day_37_element_bistroToday was my final session with my demo client for the 10 series. It finished up in lovely fashion and I’m really happy with the work I did. That said, it’s also a little bittersweet finishing up with someone who’s been really fun to work with and a great reciprocal learning relationship for my first assist. It’s also going to be curious as I will be starting Thursday with a new post-10 client who I’ll see for 3 sessions. Having watched how it can be really challenging to have someone visit a student towards the end of a training I figure it will be curious to be trying to integrate a new relationship on the tail end of a long series of learning already.

After class Neal and I went out for drinks (and me for dinner since I’d skipped lunch) at Element Bistro near the Rolf Institute. We sat out on the rooftop bar overlooking the start of the mountains and it’s really good to have someone like Neal to work with and be able to check in throughout the course making sure we’re both on track and holding it together.

 

Day 38 – September 21

Photo taking broke down today. I’m actually a bit surprised that I made it this far without a miss but today happened to be the day for it. Today actually turned out to be a bit of a wiped day for me. A good one for the students as they took their 13-series clients into session 8. I actually don’t have a good recollection of this day other than remembering that I had really intended to go to a dance at the Arvada Tavern but ended up just crashing out early instead.

 

Day 39 – September 22

uc516_day_39_barefoot_jazzToday I met my post-10 series client for the first time. I was still dragging pretty badly from the day before and feeling like I wasn’t going to do very well working with her in the morning. By the time she came in and we got to work though I had found my groove again inside of about 15 minutes. It was particularly nice to feel less constrained to the 10-series and a bit more free to work as needed. I do of course still love the 10-series for what it is, but in the teaching context there’s a certain feeling of pressure to do work in a specific context. Getting back to working with an already Rolfed body was a nice change and I think the session came together really well. For their post-10 series work, most of the students are working on each other which also adds a nice looser vibe to the room at the end of the day.

For dancing that night I met a couple of Balboa folks at Waterloo in Louisville. Jeremy Mohney was playing again, we had some great conversations about dance and teaching, and I made plans to go hiking in the morning with one of the dancers. Towards the end I noticed that Jeremy was playing barefoot and being a proponent of minimalist footwear, I figured that would make a good picture for the day.

 

Day 40 – September 23

uc516_day_40_ribs_n_brisketI woke up this morning to a text from my intended hiking buddy saying she hadn’t been able to get to bed until after 3am and would be in no shape to go hiking that morning. Not to be deterred, I set out for breakfast followed by a short but satisfying hike up and down the Dakota Ridge trail at Sanitas Valley.

Following the hike I headed over to a Texas BBQ joint I had been meaning to check out called Wayne’s Smoke Shack. Because they are only open for lunch 5 days a week until they sell out, it had been a bit challenging to find time to get there, but it was well worth it. Easily the best brisket and ribs I’ve had here and some of the best crust I’ve had on barbecue in most places.

After Wayne’s I took a trip out to the Celestial Seasonings tea factory for a tour and to pick up some Nutcracker Suite tea for a client and for the office. Being a seasonal holiday tea it’s hard to find other times and seemed to be the office favorite, so that and about a half dozen other teas are coming home with me. In addition I’d say the mint room, while delicious smelling, was also rather burny just to stand around and the tea-dusted cement floor seemed like one of he slickest potential dance surfaces I’ve been on my whole trip.

I followed up the tea tour with a trip to visit Redstone Meadery in Boulder where I just happened to luck into arriving shortly before their factory tour started as well. It’s an operation that looked fairly small but delivered big on flavor and a lot of nice varieties of mead. I finished the tour and tasting and snagged a few bottles to take home, then headed home for a bit of a nap before heading over to a dancer friend’s house to practice Balboa and talk about our pets.

Day 41 – September 24

uc516_day_41_partySaturday morning I had intended on hiking up Lion’s Lair trail on the west side of Mount Sanitas with some friends, but due to a miscommunication it didn’t work out, so we decided to punt and go Sunday instead. Not to be put off getting some outdoor time in, I took another spin around Sanitas Valley and Dakota Ridge solo then headed over for round 2 lunch at Wayne’s Smoke Shack this time going for chicken, sausage, and peach cobbler. Then I grabbed a couple pounds of brisket to go and headed up to Neal’s for a class party.

Neal turns out to be quite a gardener so we spent an hour or so harvesting, cleaning, chopping, and roasting veggies, grilling steaks, and drinking beer with the class. The “Happy Rolfing” cake pictured above was also delicious and accompanied by grilled peaches for dessert. Three of the students plus myself had signed up for a movement session with Heather Starsong at 7 so the party wound up in the early afternoon and we headed back down to Boulder.

The session with Heather was wonderful and again I was struck by what it’s like observing someone who’s been doing something for something like 40 years now. I hung back a bit and let Heather focus mostly on the students, who need to have done a certain number of movement sessions to graduate the Rolfing training, but still got a lot out of watching her work. There were also some emotional moments towards the end which made me glad to see the students getting some exposure to the power of the Rolf Movement work.

Following this I headed over to Caffe Sole for the tail end of a jazz group and some dancing. I only caught the last 40 minutes or so, but got a few really nice dances in and the followed a couple of close dance friends over to Oak at fourteenth on the Pearl Street Mall for a few cocktails. The drinks were absolutely delicious and sitting at the bar for an hour or so just talking sailing, teaching, and cocktail lore with the bartender was a great way to cap off the night with someone passionate and still driven about what they do.

 

Day 42 – September 25

uc516_day_42_rattlesnake_gulch

Sunday dawned a little brighter and a little earlier than I would have liked as I got up early to talk with a friend back East who had thought we set things up for an hour later. By the time she called I was on my way to Dushanbe Teahouse to meet my 10-series client and debrief on the series plus talk about her plans to train to be a Rolfer. We had a great talk, lots of good conversation about various topics relating to her session, plans, and how to help set up her life to support her training which is the sort of thing I think will serve her really well when she does get into the program.

After tea I headed out to meet the friends for a hike up Lion’s Lair but since it was around noon by the time we got going, we decided to shift and head to Eldorado Park and hike the Rattlesnake Gulch trail instead since it was a more gradual trail and tends to be more shady during the day. It was a beautiful hike up and I thought I had taken this great photo sphere shot from the Continental Divide overlook point but it turned out to only save about half the sphere, so, sigh, but pictured above is still a pretty good straight ahead shot of the Divide.

Following some trail time I headed over to Vapor Distillery to meet one of my cousins for a few drinks the from there to The Post Brewing Co. for dinner with some friends. Some delicious upscale Southern type food and drinks ensued and I finally headed home around 9pm to clean out and return the rental car before a bit of Netflix time and then bed.

 

Week 5 of assisting my first Rolfing® training is in the books. I’m feeling my stride with the teaching, learning a lot, and finally finding some serious time to go out dancing. It seems like we’re both gathering momentum towards the end and at the same time feeling like I’m short on time to do all the enjoying of Boulder that I want to.

Day 29 – September 12

Today was the first day that Ray McCall joined the class to assess Neal as an instructor. Having watched Lael be assessed in Brazil and now Neal, it’s interesting to see the first jitters play out with people far more experienced than myself. Neal handled it well, but was clearly wound rather tight the first half of today and going into his session 6 with his client. In the afternoon he settled out and it was a pleasure having Ray in class.

uc516_day_29_kakes_studioAt the end of the day, Ray came up to me and asked who I did my movement training with. When I responded that it was predominantly Monica Caspari and Lael Keen and asked why, he said it showed in how I approached students and gave feedback and that I clearly moved from my center and expressed out through my limbs. I took that validation and compliment gladly then went out to Kakes studio for the Monday night classes and dance with Boulder Swing Dance.

Day 30 – September 13

uc516_day_30_poptart_therapyTuesday was session 8 with my 10-series client. Ray was not observing this day so I got to head into the integration sessions of the series without the extra observation. After some hemming and hawing and discussing, I ended up going with client’s desire to try radial decompression for the 8/9 part of her series. It felt like a little bit of a risk since traditionally it’s an upper and lower session, but the session ended up being helpful to have demo’d for the students, several of whom had been nudged to do radial decompression sessions in their Unit 2 despite never having seen a RD session.

The session went well but I think the extra charge around trying to determine the “right” session type to do was showing a bit in the general class energy as we moved towards the afternoon. One of the students decided to go out and get Pop-tarts which she hadn’t had in, I think she said 6+ years. So toasted pop-tart therapy was the order of the evening and towards the end of the day we got to have some good conversations around long-term challenges with the work and such.

Day 31 – September 14

uc516_day_31_irish_snugSession 7 for the Monday/Wednesday clients today. There’s nothing quite like watching a room of Rolfers pulling on gloves and putting fingers in mouths and up noses. It seemed to be a pretty significant session for Neal’s and several other clients and was a particularly interesting day to sit with and hold space for.

Feeling a little worn down I headed down to Denver after class for Balboa practice where I got to evoke some interesting imagery to help a few dancer friends with body mechanics and flow. Then went over to The Irish Snug for a few beers and dancing to Gypsy Swing Revue.

Day 32 – September 15

uc516_day_32_merc_stairsLast day of classes for the week and this time I was doing my client’s session 9 with Ray observing in addition to the class. Given that a new person would change the dynamic of the room a bit, I made sure to introduce my client to Ray outside before anything got going; all the same it was interesting watching how the extra observer affected both mine and my client’s nerves a bit. Fortunately, she and I have been building a nice sort of teamwork effort all along the way and we could lean on that a bit to keep her session moving in awesome directions (including a nice ‘wink wink’ type, “you’re doing such a great job today” comment from my client). I asked Ray for feedback afterwards and he said it was a great advanced type session but maybe to find ways to pull it back a bit if I’m going to teach further. I expect if I continue to teach that that sort of balancing act between client needs and abilities and student needs and abilities will be a long-term project.

Following class I picked up a dancer friend from Boulder and we headed down to Denver for a Harvest Moon Ball dance at The Mercury Cafe. I both love the Merc and at the same time still find myself a little intimidated dancing there. Nine years ago the Merc was the first place I’d spent more than a few days dancing outside of my home scene and the level of skill combined with the level of play there made me feel like I had no idea how to dance. I don’t run into that as much anymore, but I was reminded of that feeling and the challenges of trying to find my groove 2000 miles away from home. All in all though it was a lovely evening and I got to meet some great folks who I had never danced with before.

Day 33 – September 16

uc516_day_33_royal_archOn the advice of some dancer friends, I got up semi-early on Friday and headed out to hike up to Royal Arch. I’d been warned that it gets pretty crowded on weekends and had heard the phrase “nobody works on Friday in Boulder” the night before at the Merc so I had a little trepidation when I didn’t make it out onto the trail until past 10am. All the same, several hours, some beautiful views, and a lot of sweat later, I made it up to the Arch and a gorgeous view of Boulder below. Along the way I had some great conversations and meetings with fellow hikers including several sets of folks from North Carolina. It was another reminder of how much happier and more sociable I’ve been getting since selling my house 4 months ago.

I made it off the trail sometime around 2 and headed over to check out J&L Distilling, a place I’d heard Ray recommending to Neal in passing. What I had expected to be maybe 30 minutes to an hour of exploration turned into over 3 hours of hanging out when Jon Martine, his wife, and a friend just happened to show up and sit down next to me. Jon had taught the Anatomy lead-in week to our class the week I had been absent and will be teaching a stand-alone day next week. I had a great time hanging out and chatting with them and being introduced to some off-menu cocktail options like the Atomic Beet Down.

Day 34 – September 17

Friday night for unclear reasons turned into a night of extremely little sleep. I had intended on getting up early to hike part of Mt. Sanitas again but woke up feeling like that would be a bad idea. Instead, knowing I had two birthday parties to go to that afternoon, I spent most of the morning fitfully trying to nap and watching Netflix when that failed.

uc516_day_34_cakeThe first party, and source of today’s photo, was for my nephew who was turning 1. It was a struggle getting over there and settling in at first but once I got to talking with family for a bit it turned out to be a really lovely time. This trip has been fairly short on family time due to the constraints of not having a car at first and lots of energy just going into learning my role in the classroom so it was nice to have most of the nearby family gathered to hang out and catch up for a bit. The birthday boy was clearly enamored with the cake and I ended up staying a lot longer than expected with the evening’s finale being taking both my niece and nephew for a bunny spotting walk around the neighborhood.

From there, I briefly dropped by home to pick up my dance shoes and change then went to meet a party of dancers at License No. 1 beneath the Boulderado hotel for a joint dancer birthday celebration. A band I hadn’t heard before called Banshee Tree was playing and they were mostly fast and consistently great. There were a LOT of drunks to dodge in a very small dance space for a while but around 11:30 on their final set it started to clear down a bit and I got a really nice set of dances in with a local dancer who I’d never met before doing half-time Lindy in order to keep going to the last of the super fast songs.

Day 35 – September 18

uc516_day_35_flatirons_hikeSunday saw another hike, this time up the Flatirons trails, not too far from but significantly easier than the Royal Arch hike I had done on Friday. It was again wonderful just being out in nature, being sociable, and also getting to spend a bit of non-dance time with the dancers I’m getting to know or connect with again and who I’ll have to say goodbye to all too soon.

A few hours hiking was followed by a delicious lunch at Zoe Ma Ma and then I went home and basically crashed for about 12 hours sleep catching up from Friday night and recharging for the week ahead.

Week 4 crossed the halfway point for both students and myself with this Unit 3 Rolfing® training. What started feeling incredibly spacious and like we might be here forever is beginning to pick up steam and nearing that fever pitch where parts of the internal monologue start saying less “la-di-da, so much time” and more “oh crap, how are we going to get everything in?!”

Day 22 – September 5

uc516_day_22_music_festivalToday was Labor Day and thankfully and enjoyably a day off. This made for the final day of a nice 4-day weekend and a good chance to unwind and sort of take stock for me. I spent the morning relaxing, checking in with some dance friends, and getting some more ideas of how to get more connected with Boulder again. While it had been great to have 4 days off I also hadn’t planned a lot of activity for it and ended up feeling a bit cut off from people.

So there happened to be a Labor Day Weekend Boulder Creek Hometown Music Festival going on complete with duck floats, a Zucchini car race which looked similar to Pinewood Derbies but with Zucchini as the car basis instead of a block of wood. There was also the seal-your-self in balls for floating on the water pictured above but sadly they seemed limited to kids about 8 or younger. I tooled around the festival for a few hours then got tea at the iconic Dushanbe Tea House then happened to find my way to Press Play bar and arcade on Pearl Street. Finally I made my way to Kakes Studio at 9pm for some dancing to Jeremy Mohney.

Day 23 – September 6

uc516_day_23_smile_muralTuesday was session 6 (back line) with my client. As I had walked in to class today the mural above had caught my eye. This mural sits across from the Rolf Institute and while it spans the whole building, the “Your smile matters” part had grabbed my attention this morning. I’m not sure what to share about it other than to say that smiling has been one of those things I felt I had to force for a long time and this year has been a brilliant space of finding ways to have it start coming back naturally. Thanks to the mural for reminding me that it is a powerful and valuable thing to have back too. 🙂

Day 24 – September 7

uc516_day_24_lake_runWednesday seemed to be a day with a feeling of divergence. Students had their session 4 (inner line of the leg) with one of their clients while having just finished session 6 with their other client the previous day. It had also been a week since they had seen this client and most recently had done movement sessions with them. While it doesn’t seem like much, that week break is the longest any of the clients will have gone without getting work during the course of this series. And something about the further shifting placement of sessions between the two clients helps to nudge that feeling of “this is going to be real work soon” since clients in a practice situation are rarely coming in on the same session on the same day (though it is fun when the stars align and all your sessions one day seem to have the same theme).

With the end of today I realized it’s the halfway point for me, everyone else’s halfway point having been over the weekend. I’d hoped to spend more time being active and getting in a bit better shape while I was out here but have so far felt a little sporadic about it. So as I’m getting out dancing more I also wanted to start being more active elsewhere so I took a run around the lakes by RISI after class and got this gorgeous picture of the sky reflecting off the water.

Day 25 – September 8

uc516_day_25_poop_fairyThursday morning saw me early into the office for another run around the lake which happened to include running into this delightful sign. Today was session 7 (head, neck, mouth, nose) with my demo client which is probably most often the weirdest session of the series to most people. It ended up being a great session but one where the time got away from me a little bit and I was relieved to find that my client didn’t have to start work until slightly later than usual so we had time to get her out the door without creating a problem.

After class I had a dance friend coming in for a session and got to spend an hour or so doing a more casual session not under the observation of a 10-person group. It was really nice to have that moment to just get back to working for the sake of working for a bit and to have the conversation time to catch up a bit on how the dance scene is in Colorado lately. We got dinner, had some more conversation, then headed off home.

Day 26 – September 9

uc516_day_26_denver_colleagueFriday was a class day today since we had our whole week shifted by a day on account of Labor Day. So it was a day that demanded less work from me since Neal was demoing today, but we had a lively conversation about trauma and how to work with it in the morning.

I finished up class and drove down to Denver for what was intended to be dinner with a colleague, who I’d met in Scotland, followed by going to a dance. However, due to awesome conversation and tasty foods and beverages we ended up hanging out until after midnight and I bagged on going to the dance which ended at 10:30. The photo for today is of one of his coffee table books which just seemed quirky enough to make me think it would be a good photo for today. We had some delicious food at a place called Cho 77 and then walked around the neighborhood for a bit catching up and talking about assisting and such before having a final drink in which we finished off a bottle my friend had brought back from Scotland which seemed a little poetic somehow and a great way to end the week’s work.

Day 27 – September 10

uc516_day_27_lindy_and_libationsWEEKEND TIME!!! This morning started with sleeping in followed by barely making it up in time to go meet a new dance friend and her boyfriend for brunch. Bagels from Moe’s Bagels were the order of the day and man they had a lovely home. He’s an architect who has lived in Boulder for 60+ years and designed and built several of the homes on the block, culminating in the current home which was just incredibly beautiful. It was a fun and interesting sort of reminder of what that sort of commitment to one place might allow for as I’m currently wondering how much longer I might remain in the Triangle. Following brunch we took a nice easy hike around the foothills area and then I headed home for the afternoon.

A bit of article prepping and vegging out to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell brought me dance luck in the form of a Facebook post. At about 4pm, I happened to catch a post about live music and dancing at Stem Ciders in Denver. I headed down to Denver a few hours later for some solid swing with Odessa Rose and some tasty cider. The crowd was small and a bit more social than dancy that night but the band was good and the energy picked up after the lesson at the first band break. Also ran into a dancer who was a recent transplant to Denver and spent some time talking Rolfing and moves and many other things. It continues to amaze me how much of my energy to socialize, chat people up, make small or large talk, and enjoy being in a crowd has been freeing up since I sold the house.

Day 28 – September 11

Another drive down to Denver Sunday morning, this time for a chat with my demo client. Since she’s interested in potentially training to be a Rolfer it has always been my policy to make time to talk about Rolfing training outside of the treatment room. Not that it can’t be discussed in session but there are so many nuances that could be lost if one was constantly trying to talk and receive or give a worthwhile session. So down to Denver I headed with a registration packet and a copy of one of Dr. Rolf’s books for her. It was a great talk with lots of nuance both about possible ways to go about training and about what being a Rolfer is like for me. I continue to be more excited about the possibility that she will end up becoming a Rolfer and at times it was hard not to burst out with “OMG go already, you gonna love it!!!”

uc516_day_28_snarfburgerTook my time heading home after a leisurely fancy Mexican lunch at Leña and a trip through what a colleague had described as Denver’s fanciest Goodwill. After getting home I ended up taking an extended nap that lasted from something like 3:30-7:30. I woke up hungry and decided to go for a walk to find dinner. After a few Google Maps searches I finally landed on going to Snarfburger which is an offshoot of Snarf’s, my to-date favorite sandwich shop chain in Boulder. Incidentally it appears that Snarfburger is located in the spot where Daddy Bruce’s Barbecue used to be.

I’m going to end this post waxing slightly poetic about Daddy Bruce’s. I was introduced to Daddy Bruce’s by Michael Polon in my Unit 1 training close to 9 years ago now. I was jonesing for some barbecue one lunch and asked if there were any good places. Michael sent myself and a few of my classmates down to Daddy Bruce’s which, oddly enough, was right next door to the campus of Naropa, the Buddhist university in Boulder. It was about as bare bones of a barbecue shack as I’ve ever been in but it felt like a breath of fresh air walking in for me. There was basically just room for take away or there may have been 2-3 tables. Everything was served in Styrofoam take out trays with piles of meat, a side or two, and a generic store bought sandwich cookie for dessert. The beef ribs were pretty hefty caveman style eating and downright delicious. The older black gentleman running the joint, who I can only assume was Daddy Bruce, appeared to run the entire operation by hand including doing all of the calculations for order pricing by hand on a sheet of paper. It was one of those places that somehow just etched itself in your memory and felt like you were stepping into something just rustically authentic and unfettered by the dressing up that so often accompanies barbecue restaurants nowadays and it gave me a taste of home in my first training when I was deeply in need of one. It’s a place I expect to miss just a little bit for many years to come if not every time I come to Boulder for the rest of my life.

Week 3 of this Unit 3 basic Rolfing® training has begun to feel like something of a different animal. We’re getting into the core/deep sessions of the series, students are starting to settle and hit their stride with their clients, and overall the momentum of the class feels more stable and up-and-running. The 4 weeks we still have to go feels at once very distant and almost an inevitable conclusion rushing towards us.

Day 15 – August 29

UC516_Day_15_Jeep_RenegadeFirst day getting to drive into class instead of taking the bus. While I had arranged to rent a compact car, the rental agency saw fit to upgrade me after a 5 hour extra wait to get a vehicle at all. So for the upcoming month I had a Jeep Renegade to drive around town. First day or two driving it were a little nervous being that I’m unused to the shape of it; but at the same time it seems like another potential step forward in terms of getting used to standing in the full width of my body (something I’ve been working with for the past few years ever since John Martine’s Neural 2 class).

Today was Neal’s demo client day so I mostly got to sit back and observe with interjections of ideas when necessary. Continuing to get more comfortable with observing student sessions and adding input at appropriate times and such. There’s definitely an art to this that I expect will take some time to fully embody. That said, 12 years of teaching dance is definitely serving me pretty well in terms of feeling semi-comfortable jumping into it.

Day 16 – August 30

UC516_Day_16_PhoSession 4 demo day for me today. Session 4 remains a curiosity for me in terms of trust. For those of you not familiar, session 4 in the Rolfing 10-series works the muscles of the inner leg and thigh up to the pelvic floor and hips. It’s the first time in the series that you start really digging into territory that many people have never had touched therapeutically and it still amazes me sometimes how clients will trust me to work in odd areas after having only known me for a few hours of direct contact.

I’d spent a decent portion of the weekend mulling over and mapping out some various options for the session then ended up discarding more than half of those ideas mid-session. Session went great and as I’m continuing to settle into my side of the work I think my client and the students are getting better info and better results.

On the challenging side, I feel like my days seem to just be show up to class, do class things, get dinner, go to bed. I expect it to keep shifting as we go, but I’m hoping to start finding more of a social life here again soon so I can feel like there’s more to this trip than just work and survive. I’m also being patient with this evolution, letting it come, and keeping in mind how much change has gone down for me already this year.

Day 17 – August 31

Today was a fun and chill day. It was 2nd Movement session day for the clients who are doing movement work. One of my goals for the movement work was to do what we could to evoke a greater sense of play and to that end, we started off class with a John Cleese video on creativity. The thought behind this video being as much to evoke play in the day’s sessions as to suggest ways of staying open to grown and creation in the Movement work longer term so the Movement ideas continue to grow and evolve rather than becoming stuck in rote memorization.

Today felt like a good reminder about patience with growth. Planting ideas like creativity and play are these long-term sort of projects that require one to plant seeds, then sit back and not meddle too much while students work it out for themselves. Taking this as a good reminder too to be patient with some of my own growth aspects that are bubbling up this week.

Day 18 – September 1

UC516_Day_18_SunsetAnother grey day for my session 5 with my client. Got into some really rich territory and I’m feeling very grateful for having a client who’s down for the whole multi-faceted journey of the 10-series. It’s interesting to find myself leading someone else through some of the changes I went through as a Rolfer® and sort of evoking the idea that to help others as fully as possible you also get to be open to the work changing you as a practitioner as well.

Today marked our heading into a 4 day Labor Day weekend which I’m both looking forward to and have a bit of trepidation about. Lack of social time so far is starting to wear on me a little bit and although I am planning to hit up a dance in Boulder on Monday, I’m unsure how I’ll work through the extended downtime.

Day 19 – September 2

UC516_Day_19_Sunny_SkyNot a great deal to report for this Friday. I was riding pretty high off of doing two really fun demo sessions and feeling like we had some solid rapport going with the students. I sort of semi-snoozed through part of the day then took myself out to see Don’t Think Twice at the local movie theater. It was a good if entirely chill day to the extent that this is basically the only photo I took that day and wasn’t really even thinking about documenting for the day.

Day 20 – September 3

UC516_Day_20_Mount_SanitasSaturday morning I decided to take a hike up the trails around Mount Sanitas on the west edge of Boulder. Set off on foot from the house with about a 2 mile hike to the trail head. The last time I’d gone near Sanitas was about a year ago taking a night hike through the valley with a newly graduated Rolfer friend. We had hiked what turned out to be the very easy part of the trail which is the valley section on a nice easy slope. The summit trails turned out to be around 1350 elevation gain and then descent over about 3 miles. It was a beautiful hike and one I’m thinking might get repeated a few more times while I’m here, but definitely more intense than I was expecting.

Hiked my way back through Pearl Street Mall, got some street tacos, then napped and read for a good portion of the rest of the day.

Day 21 – September 4

UC516_Day_21_Deer_in_YardDeer in the yard across the street from where I am staying this morning. Today was a little exploration and a lot of chill time. Took a drive down the foothills to Golden, CO and Denver. Took an afternoon nap and did some reading on student papers that need to be done by Tuesday.

Tag Cloud